Monday, November 16, 2015

The lack of opportunities can adversely affect every sector of our society

There is more and more data to show how poverty affects where we live, how much education we receive, the quality of our education, the type of jobs we get and how long we will live. The presentation that Edith Cabuslay presented to the Palo Alto Rotary Club this past Monday, November 2nd was a powerful description of what are called the social determinants of health. As the program services manager for the San Mateo County Health System’s Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Unit, Cabuslay has compiled a lot of data to show just how much income and educational disparities have a ripple effect throughout society. You can see by clicking here some of what Cabuslay says about these social determinants on an edition of the Talking with Henrietta show.

Not only does the lack of education and opportunities affect African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos the most in the United States, but articles are now being written on how the lack of educational opportunities is a major factor in the increasing suicide rates among middle-class white Americans. You can read one of these articles here.

It's becoming more and more obvious that all sectors of our society are connected to and affected by what happens to other sectors in our society.  New research shows that there are stresses and strains on every group in one way or the other. We will know that America has turned the corner in offering equal access to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to everyone in our society, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc. when it gets better at offering equal access to educational opportunities to all of its residents. Cabuslay thinks this video shows where we must put our attention as a society to improve the quality of life for everyone. See if you agree with her.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Education in America Needs to Go Beyond the Academics

It has been said that getting an education is a way out of poverty and a way for people to dramatically improve the quality of their lives. Pres. Obama certainly seems to subscribe to this idea with his emphasis on education this month, both in his recommendation to have community college education provided free to those who want it, and in the emphasis that he placed on education in his State of the Union address.

But with all of the emphasis being placed on the importance of education, what does it mean to be educated? For many educators and philosophers, education involves more than a focus on academics, for the sake of learning facts and figures. In some circles, being educated was traditionally looked at as a pathway for an individual to become a well-rounded human being.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines well-rounded as "involving or having experience in a wide range of ideas or activities."

One can even find online in WikiHow a series of steps that each person can take to become well-rounded. These steps include learning about other cultures and countries; reading books, magazines, newspapers; getting involved in lots of activities, like painting, dancing, creating music and other hobbies; and being open-minded to new things. The entire list can be seen at

It might be that in East Palo Alto, the Ravenswood City School District Superintendent, Gloria Hernandez-Goff, is starting students off early on the road to being well-rounded, since she and other district leaders think that the district must go beyond the teaching of academic basics, if the students in East Palo Alto are to excel in academics.  The superintendent has taken the position that public school education in East Palo Alto should address the needs of the whole child (Click here to see an excerpt from Superintendent Hernandez-Goff's recent interview on the Talking with Henrietta show, Looking at the Common Core - Part 1.).

The district recognizes that students can't learn well, for example, when they are hungry, when they are sick, when they are regularly subjected to stressful living conditions, like crime and violence or when they lack regular opportunities for exercise. So, the district has created wraparound programs for students that address these situations.  Even today, January 21, the district formally launched a new program, which includes yoga, to promote the health and wellness of each student. Read a brief post about the program on East Palo Alto Today's Facebook page at

So, as one considers various perspectives about education, one can still ask, what does it mean for individuals to be educated? What does it mean for the U.S. to have an educated citizenry? How best should that education be provided and should it be accessible to everyone regardless of his or her ability to pay? These are just a few questions our national leaders and local educators are addressing as our country grapples with some of the global, national and local issues we face.

When all is said and done, even the definition of education is becoming more inclusive, with education currently being acknowledged not only as a personal way up the ladder, but also as a national prerequisite for the U.S. to maintain its position as a world leader among nations.

It isn't heard as often as it once was and it has undergone change, but the United Negro College Fund's saying that "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" is probably even more true today than ever. Certainly, such a loss would be a loss for the individual and for those who are close to that person.  Now, as things are shaping up, each mind, around us, that is not fulfilling its potential, not only represents a personal loss, but it also represents a loss for our country and for our planet, as well.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday : The time is always right to do what is right

The U.S. recognizes the third Monday in January as an official holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year the holiday falls on Monday, January 19. But, did you know that January 15 is Dr. King's actual birthday.

In recognition of Dr. King's birthday, today, and in honor of the King holiday, the Rainbow Push Coalition, led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, issued a special press release. It is called, An Open Letter to the Technology Industry
Honor the King Holiday “The Time is Always right to do what is right”

It is written by Rev. Jackson. You will find it reprinted in its entirety below:
January 15,  2015

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.   After much blood, sweat and tears, it is a cherished national holiday when we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, his life of struggle and the legacy he left for our ongoing struggle for civil and human rights.

Government offices, banks, schools, and many businesses will close this coming Monday, January 19, 2015.

But most technology companies will not be observing Martin Luther King Day – sadly but not surprisingly, they be open and conducting business as usual.

Last year, the Rainbow PUSH successfully engaged over two dozen leading technology companies to release their EEO-1 report and workforce diversity data.  The data over and over showed the glaring under-representation of Black, Latinos and women in the every company.

And the campaign has generated a new climate of change sweeping through Silicon Valley and the tech industry.   Nowhere is this climate of change apparent than in Intel’s diversity initiative announced at the start of 2015: they have set a goal of reaching full representation of women and people of color in their workforce, measuring progress, tying compensation to diversity performance goals, and setting a specific timetable – 2020, just five years from now – to achieve their goals.  And they’ve allocated an initial $300 million budget to begin to implement their plan.

RainbowPUSH is holding its 18th annual Wall Street Economic Summit in New York this week – including keynotes from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and participation from Silicon Harlem, Tech Meet up, Black Enterprise and the Nat.l Venture Capital Association. 

We started this Wall Street initiative with the simple idea that the NY Stock Exchange should honor the King Holiday.  We appealed to Dick Grasso, chair of the NYSE at the time, and we won.

It does not make sense to tout diversity and inclusion, to promote change and innovation and not recognize the King Holiday.

It’s time for the technology companies to join with America, and close their doors and honor the King Holiday.   Close your doors on the King Holiday, and expand your effort to open the doors of opportunity for women and people of color. 

This Monday only a handful of technology companies will close their doors and honor the King Holiday.    For those that don’t, make clear your commitment to diversity and inclusion.  Make clear your alignment with civil and human rights.

Make clear your intention to close your doors and honor the King Holiday in 2016 and forever on, and let freedom ring throughout the valley.

As Dr. King would say “The time is always right to do what is right.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Healthy Partnerships Strengthen Us All

East Palo Alto Today will be nine years old in January 2015. This year, especially, it has worked in collaboration with other ethnic media organizations to expand and enhance the news coverage it has provided to its readers.

The partnerships the paper has formed have only added to the collective strength that collaborating media organizations bring to the individual communities they serve.

As 2014 comes to a close, EPA Today, on behalf of its founding organization, the East Palo Alto Center for Community Media, would like to thank all of its followers for the opportunity to be of service. We know that with their support and your support, EPA Today will be able to continue to fulfill its commitment to bring relevant news and information to its reading public. It will also be able to continue to strengthen its partnerships with other media organizations.

As the new year unfolds, we have one request of you. As EPA Today and the East Palo Alto Center for Community Media partners with others, a key goal is to continue our collaboration with you - our reading public.

So, as you read these words, please consider how you can partner with us in 2015 to enable us to fulfill our commitments to you. For ideas, see

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Role of Ethnic Media: Increasing in Influence

With California's growing multi-cultural population, one can expect that various ethnic groups will develop and support media outlets that focus on their individual issues. Félix Gutiérrez, a professor of journalism and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, supported this idea when he said, “In a multicultural society, people pay attention to media that pay attention to them.”

A 2013 Pew Research Center survey showed that the mainstream media in the U.S. is declining dramatically.
Nearly one-third of the survey's respondents (31%) said that they had deserted their regular news outlets because they no longer provided them with the in-depth news and information to which they had grown accustomed.

A poll taken several years ago by the firm Bendixen & Associates, showed that ethnic media in the U.S. is thriving. According to the poll, one quarter of the U.S. population regularly turns to ethnic media for information and 13% of U.S. adults said that they preferred ethnic media over mainstream media as a source of their information.

As mainstream media outlets shrink and undergo various transformations, ethnic media outlets are continuing to assume responsibility for getting critical news and information to their individual communities.

While some might debate the extent of the growing power of ethnic media, their influence is evident in many communities throughout the U.S.

One of the nation's most prominent ethnic media organizations is New America Media, also known as NAM. In future posts, I'll say more about New America Media and describe how East Palo Alto Today and my show, Talking with Henrietta, are working with NAM to get information to the public on several important issues.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Personal Tribute: Remembering Former State Assembly member Ira Ruskin

Since the inception of the Talking with Henrietta television show, which started in 2002,  I have interviewed hundreds of interesting and engaging people.

Photo courtesy of the Ruskin family
Ira Ruskin
It is an honor for me to be able to list former State Assembly member Ira Ruskin among them. It is with sadness that I read over the July 4th weekend that Ruskin died on July 3rd from a brain tumor.

I will remember the interview that I did with Ruskin and Steve Poizner in 2004, when they were running against each other to be elected to the California State Assembly, representing the 21st Assembly District. It was a hard fought election that Ruskin won. 

In the ensuing years, Ruskin was a frequent guest on my show. In October 2009, he appeared with East Palo Alto’s former police chief, Ron Davis, to discuss the topic, The Fight Against Crime - Is It Working? On the show, we examined whether local and state crime initiatives lead to a reduction in crime. See a show excerpt at
A photo taken in 2010 showing State Assemblyman Ira Ruskin,
Henrietta J. Burroughs and Senator Joe Simitian on the Talking
with Henrietta television show.
In February 2010 – Ruskin was a guest along with former State Senator Joe Simitian for a discussion of the challenges facing California’s public and higher education systems.  The show was called, The Race to the Top - Why Should We Try to Get There? A show excerpt can be seen at

Later in November 2010, Ruskin joined Paula Sandas, the former president and CEO of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the then Vice Mayor of East Palo Alto, Carlos Romero, on the show for a discussion of Election Results: What Do They Mean? – You can see an excerpt from that show at

State Assemblyman Ira Ruskin is shown
in 2010 handing a piece of his birthday cake 
to East Palo Alto City Councilman Carlos
Romero after their show discussion on
Talking with Henrietta.

We even had the chance, thanks to his press secretary, Karen Zamel, to celebrate his 66th birthday right after our show discussion, since he had come to the taping on his birthday.

It was several months later in May 2011, as he was preparing to run for the California State Senate that Ruskin announced that he had a malignant brain tumor that could be contained, but not cured.

I last spoke with Ruskin during a chance encounter earlier this year at the entrance to Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City. I was leaving the hospital after a routine appointment. He was arriving for a doctor’s appointment to continue the treatment he was receiving for his brain tumor. In introducing me to his wife, Cheryl, he was as gracious off the set as he was on the set.

 Resolution from the California
Legislature for the East Palo Alto
Center for Community Media
There were other occasions involving Ruskin that will be treasured. For example, it was a personally, gratifying moment to receive, on behalf of the East Palo Alto Center for Community Media, a Resolution from the California Legislature that Ruskin co-signed with Senator Simitian in December 2005 recognizing the center’s founding and the future launch of the East Palo Alto Today newspaper.

It is, indeed, a memorable experience to have had the opportunity, since his 2004 election, to talk with Ruskin about his work in the California State Legislature,  about the issues affecting California and the nation and to share this information with my show’s viewers.

Ruskin has already been described as a well-respected legislator in the accolades now being made following his death. I would also add that, during my encounters with him, I found him to be conscientious, genuinely concerned about those around him and prepared to give his best to the constituents he served.

I am fortunate, as a journalist, to have on-going opportunities to discuss the issues of the day with local and national leaders. I will sincerely miss, as will many others, having the opportunity to talk with Ira Ruskin, again.

See Ruskin family announcements regarding his funeral service on July 9th at

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Death of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter Brings Back Memories

          The death of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was front page news in many newspapers on Easter Sunday and it was headline news all over the Internet.  As you will recall, Carter was the African-American boxer who was in prison for 19 years for a murder that he said he did not commit. 
          His story generated sympathy around the world in the 1970’s. It inspired singer Bob Dylan to compose his popular protest song, Hurricane, and it led to the 1999 hit movie, The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington. 
          The reports about Carter’s death this past Sunday gave me an opportunity to connect with my own past as a reporter in New York City, because they reminded me of the review that I wrote of Carter’s autobiography, The Sixteenth Round. My book review appeared in The New York Times Sunday Book Review Section. You can read it below.
        As a youth, Carter joined a gang and had some major encounters with the criminal justice system. After waging the fight of his life outside of the ring, he finally got through his convictions and imprisonments and gained his freedom.    
     Later in his life, Carter professed his faith in the system that had put him behind bars. He believed that he was proof that justice could be obtained under our legal system. He said that if you tell the truth, the truth will eventually win out.
      Our penal institutions are full of prisoners who hope Carter was right.
Review of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter's book, The Sixteenth Round